The Child-Free vs. “Breeder” war: why are we fighting it?

I recently read a blog entry on a child-free website that was followed by a comment from a woman who went on for some time about how physically disgusting she thought pregnant women were. She wrote that only the child’s father should have to be subjected to the sight of the woman’s bulging abdomen. (It’s very possible this woman is tocophobic.)

Other child-free people will refer to parents as “breeders.” Technically accurate, yes, but offensive nonetheless.

Too often (not most of the time, but often enough), the tone used by some of the child-free when talking about parents is one of not-even-remotely-veiled contempt.

Parents’ joy over their children, the issues they face as parents, and even the fact that they chose to become parents is cause for ridicule among a certain child-free population.

What I don’t understand is why.

I’m all too aware of how emotionally exhausting (or even just annoying) it can be to have society and the media subtly, but fairly consistently, reminding me that as a (moderately) healthy woman with a functioning uterus, I should probably have a ten-year-old child by now. (*Shiver* Even the thought…) But where is all this anger for anyone and everyone who has kids coming from?

I’ve always liked to think of child-free women as people who relish their freedom and their free-time, who are confident and happy about the choice they’ve made, and who will defend that choice when it’s questioned or criticized.

But seeing many of them subjecting parents in general to the same kind of judgment and ridicule they so hate to be the targets of leaves me utterly baffled. I might expect it from someone who’s just come into their choice and is feeling tender and defensive (it’s a little bit like being a teenager in love who views all adults as the enemy saying, “You don’t know what love is!”), but when it comes from those who have been child-free for some time, it’s confusing.

Sure, most of us will probably see a parent pushing one child in a stroller and dragging the other by the hand and think, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to not be you,” but who doesn’t think that about anyone they see living a life they’re relieved to have avoided?

But this is not a logical reason to attack parents just for wanting to be parents.

When we’re attacked by people who think we’re not being the right kind of women for not building babies in our wombs, we make any number of assumptions about the people who are angry with us, because we honestly can’t fathom why our decision, which has nothing to do with anyone but us, is one they feel justified to criticize:

1.They have antiquated notions about what a woman’s role “should” be

2. They’re miserable, and so they want us to be miserable, too

3. They secretly envy us

4. They see their role as parents as self-sacrificing, heroic, and noble, and they honestly think the only reason we don’t want children is because we can’t stand the thought of giving our time to anyone but ourselves.

Whatever the reason for someone’s attack on our choice, it deserves our attention. Our rebuttal. Our fiery ire. But “it” is that specific attacker or group of attackers, not all parents, wannabe parents, and pregnant women. What did they ever do to us? And what did our own parents do to deserve that kind of universal distaste for their choice to produce us?

What do you suppose might be the list someone comes up with to explain why some of the child-free hate parents? Maybe:

1. We still aren’t sure about our choice, so when we see people with children, we feel insecure and lash out as a way to feel more powerful and in control

2. We still feel guilty about our choice (when you’re raised believing having children is just what you’re “supposed to do,” guilt over not doing it is a side-effect), so when we see people with children or think about parents, we’re reminded of what horrible people others must think we are, and we lash out as a way to feel more powerful and in control

3. We view parents as fitting into a certain kind of mold and living a certain kind of life (in other words, we have a bit of a prejudice), and everything about what we imagine it is is so distasteful to us (minivans, shuttling kids around, dragging kids through supermarkets, having “parental” opinions about everything on the planet – “Ban books! Ban music! Ban sex ed! Think of the CHILDREN!’) that it makes us cringe, and we lash out as a way to very vocally express that distaste

4. We secretly want children, but we don’t want to want them

5. We want them, but we’re incapable of having them

The way I see it, if you’re a happy, confident, child-free woman, you have no reason to lash out at parents just for being parents. We chose this life (if I’m not mistaken) in large part because we’re very attracted to the absence of child-related stress, so it seems counter-intuitive to put so much negative energy toward thinking about, fuming over, judging, and criticizing people who have children.

So, I’d like to call a truce.

To those who hate the child-free: Seek help. Explore your inner self. Discover what it is about how we live our lives that so offends you, get over it, and find more joy in your own life.

To those who hate people who have or want children: Do the same.

Naturally, the battle will go on among the individuals who have and share their strong opinions in a public forum, but as a child-free woman on the “side” of the attacked child-free (when we’re attacked), I’d like to ask us to take the higher ground. Defend when, and only when, attacked, and when firing back, fire at the actual attacker, not at the neighboring village they sometimes hold block parties with. They didn’t do anything.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Sylvia D. Lucas is the author of No Children, No Guilt and blogs at

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